Conceived through rape : Jennifer Bowman

The Forgotten Victims of Rape

Don't equate us to the act that brought us here.

Jennifer Bowman is slim and smiling, with three beautiful children. You wouldn't know by looking at her that she is somebody who has some unusual connections with rape. She says that there are victims of rape and there are forgotten victims of rape. She has set up a web site as a refuge and support group for what she calls the forgotten victims of rape, the children who result from the act of rape. She is one of them, a child conceived in rape.

Jennifer says that people have strange conceptions of children of rape. She says, "They see us as someone to be pitied. They think we will be deformed, that we will be failures in life, that we have evil genes, and that we are just waiting to wreak havoc on our birth mothers who are trying to get on with life." What a stigma!

Adopted as an infant, she says she has had problems with self-esteem since she found out at the age of eighteen that she was conceived in rape. After all, she says, if your father did such a terrible, disgusting act and you resulted from that act, how can you be worth anything?

When she was eighteen and with the blessings of her adoptive parents, she had begun a search for her birth mother. That's when she found out that she was a child of rape. It was in some of the adoption papers. "It was a shock," she says. "It made me all the more determined to find my mother so she could tell me it was a mistake. But it wasn't."

Her mother says, "I didn't go looking for her. I was leaving it completely up to her. But I remembered her birthday every year, and I figured that when she was 18 she would come looking for me."

They were happy to find each other. We talked on Jennifer's most recent visit to her mother's house, where Jennifer's children were enjoying the spoiling that only a grandmother can give. Jennifer is grateful for her mother's welcoming warmth and she is amazed at all the help her mother has given her in researching court documents. She says, "I really don't know anything about my black roots. My mother is white and I was raised in a white family. It's important to me to find out about the half of me that's black. It speaks volumes about my mother's character that she will help me so actively with this. She's just wonderful."

Jennifer is definitely pro-life. We asked her about the popular opinion that rape victims should be given abortions, that it's the kindest thing one can do for the baby. Jennifer's reply was adamant. She doesn't think anybody should have had the right to kill her as a fetus. "It's like a mercy killing. I don't want people who are not in my circumstances making decisions for me. It's my right to decide whether to be alive or not."

Looking at the life she has now, she doesn't think that anybody should pass judgment on her quality of life. "I wish people would stop equating us to the act that brought us here."

She adds that coming to terms with a traumatic event like rape is very difficult, and a pregnant rape victim may honestly feel that she cannot love the child the way a child should be loved. The truly loving response is adoption. She is personally grateful for her wonderful adoptive parents as well as the birth mother who welcomed her back.

Society doesn't know how to deal with children who are the result of rape. The mixed messages that Jennifer gets would confuse anybody. One lady, for instance, made some terribly derogatory comments about the children of rape and was saying that those babies absolutely should be aborted. Finally, Jennifer said, "Excuse me, but I'm one of those children." The woman immediately said, "Oh, but that has no bearing on you."

Jennifer's struggles with those mixed messages has led her to set up a website for people like herself, people who are children of rape. She says, "There's comfort in numbers. I felt that I was alone, that I was strange in some way. I wanted to have this website so people would have a place to go."

You can go to the public part of her website to get some information about the group, but most of the website is private. Jennifer says, "There are some people who are just curious. Right now there are about 20 members. Some are children of rape, some are the mothers of children of rape. We have some children of incest, too. It's kind of cozy, at this point, because it's small."

You can write to her at:

StigmaP.O. Box 145Spring Hill, KS 66083

And for the rest of us, we can remember that people like Jennifer don't wear a sign that says, "I was conceived in rape." So we may not be able to help a lot. We may not ever know that we could have told them about Jennifer's website. But we can make sure that in our conversations we do not equate "the forgotten victims of rape" with the act that brought them here.

We can instead reaffirm the basic value of every human being and their right to live. We can work to protect innocent human life from conception to natural death.